After a challenging year, Keep It Out of the Landfill is back at work.

I last posted to Keep It Out of the Landfill on October 28 of last year. At that time, I was nearing the end of an eighteen-week cycle of chemotherapy, subsequent to cancer surgery in April and May of 2014.

Pink Ribbon

photo credit: Messer Woland

Not to worry: the surgeries had gone well, chemo was, except for a serious lack of energy, relatively trouble-free, and follow-up scans were clear. By early December, I was looking forward to radiation therapy (“looking forward” in the sense of “let’s get past this”) and the return of my hair, and hoping to resume a normal writing schedule within a few more weeks.

But life had other plans for me. On December 16, I broke my left hip. (Again, not to panic: a hemi hip replacement the following day, therapy beginning the day after, and discharge to a rehab facility on December 21 quickly dispelled my initial fear that I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.) After about three weeks in rehab, I came home, ambulatory and able (thanks to some outstanding physical and occupational therapists) to live my life — if, for now, a little more slowly than before.

While all this has taken time, I am now getting back to one of the driving passions of my life: Keep It Out of the Landfill. And I’ve realized that I need to narrow my focus: the universe of solid waste management is too large for me to address with the resources at my disposal.

So while my blog will continue to discuss various aspects of solid waste management, future posts will largely concentrate on the issues about which I have the strongest feelings: food waste and extended producer responsibility.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll explain how those two issues fit into the solid waste management universe and why I chose to focus on them. Meanwhile, treasure every moment of your life. And every day, aim for zero solid waste: Keep It Out of the Landfill.

Survey: Most Americans are proud to recycle.

Filling recycling bins fills makes most Americans feel proud, and we feel guilty when we toss something recyclable into the trash.

That’s what the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA) found when they looked at the results of the online survey that Harris Interactive conducted for them last month.

  • More than 80% feel proud when they recycle.
  • More than 60% feel guilty when they throw a recyclable into the trash instead of recycling it.
  • More than half are often successful recycling at work, but fewer than 25% are able to recycle when traveling or dining out.

A major take-away from the survey is that, for Americans to recycle away from home or work, recycling bins need to be available. According to Anne Germain, EIA’s waste and recycling technology director, “wherever there is a public trash can, there also should be a recycling bin within sight. People think about recycling and inherently want to, but they need readily available recycling options for the habit to be a no-brainer.”

Public Recycle Bin

Wherever you see a trash bin, you should see one of these. (photo: © Justin Smith / Wikimedia Commons, CC-By-SA-3. 0)

Detailed survey results are available on the Environmental Industry Associations website, and complete survey methodology is available here.

The Environmental Industry Associations (EIA) is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling services industry through its two sub-associations, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC).

Want to stay in touch with the latest recycling news in the Cleveland area? Just click on the Follow button at the bottom of my blog Home page, or subscribe to my Examiner.com page.

No Paper Towels to Clean Up Martha Stewart’s Kitchen

Debbie Snook quoted Martha Stewart in her Fabulous Food Show article in Wednesday’s Plain Dealer. On cleaning up in the kitchen, Martha had this to say: “I don’t use paper towels. I buy one of those big packages of terry bar cloths, rinsing them out and washing as I go.”

Martha, girl, you rock! Keep those paper towels out of the landfill!

Want to stay in touch with the latest recycling news in the Cleveland area? Just click on the Follow button at the bottom of my blog Home page, or subscribe to my Examiner.com page.

Thinking About Recycling: Using Curbside Pickup Effectively

About a week ago, a colleague, Karen Thailing, and I were talking about the ways different communities handle curbside trash and recycling pickup. (Karen and I are taking part in the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste Management District’s Master Recycler Program. You’ll hear more from me about this excellent program in the next few weeks.)

Karen offered a perspective on trash disposal and recycling that fits nicely into the mindset, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.” Here are her thoughts:

At the beginning of September, the Village of Chagrin Falls switched from Waste Management to Kimble for their trash and recycling pickup.

The new recycling dumpsters have advantages over those from Waste Management in that they are considerably larger and, naturally, have a lid, thus protecting recyclables from the elements and critters.

As much as we recycle, it’s nearly impossible to fill the container each week. Therefore, in order to save the driver time and gas, we only need to put our recyclables curbside once every three or four weeks.

Likewise, our one-bag-a-week trash is usually deposited into our neighbors’ bin (with their permission, of course), again saving the driver one extra stop.

Every “litter” bit helps!

Thanks, Karen! I need to think more the way you do.

Want to stay in touch with the latest recycling news in the Cleveland area? Just click on the Follow button at the bottom of my blog Home page, or subscribe to my Examiner.com page.

Juice cleansing: what happens to the leftovers?

When I finished reading the article “Juice cleansing is a hit, but is it truly healthy?” (News-Herald Medical Directory supplement, August 29), I was left with one thought: after the juicers finish extracting the liquid from their fresh produce, what do they do with the leftover pulp and fiber?

I certainly hope they’re composting it!

Waste and Recycling: Whose Problem Is It?

A recent issue of Waste & Recycling News included an editorial, “The Real Waste Problem,” about our culture’s attitudes toward waste disposal. Whoever wrote it was reading my mind (although my mind isn’t quite as articulate as the editorial writer).

With permission from Waste & Recycling News, I’m reprinting the editorial here, in its entirety.

We at Waste & Recycling News embrace our role as the only true newspaper of our industry. We look at the world of recycling and waste as if it were a community. But instead of city limits, our coverage area extends to the nation’s landfills, transfer stations and MRFs.

We report on hard news, features, trends and, yes, even a bit of the “human interest.” That often means we write “strange things left on the curb” stories. We’ve done articles on workers finding puppies in the trash, litters of kittens, meth labs, hand grenades and body parts.

They are always among the most-read stories we write, according to our website data.

Yet these stories reveal more than our industry’s interest in kittens; they reveal a flaw in our nation’s culture. They show how those outside our community truly view their trash cans. And it’s troubling.

An article in our latest print edition tells the story of Ed Shevlin, a New York City sanitation worker who on Flag Day found a tattered United States flag dumped in the trash — next to a dirty diaper. The discovery inspired him to make it his mission to collect and properly dispose of old flags. (In the first 12 days of his campaign, he collected nearly 600.)

Take a step back and think about this for a moment: When facing the responsibility of disposing of an old flag, many folks simply — and carelessly — pass on that responsibility to us, the waste industry. “Old Glory in a landfill? I didn’t put it there. The trash company did.”

This is the essence of our waste “problem.” Although it’s not a conscious act, our culture views its trash containers as magic vessels that make garbage and responsibility disappear. Once something is dropped inside — a flag, recyclables, perhaps a perfectly good coffee maker that lacks the features of a newer model — it becomes somebody else’s problem. No matter if the consumer is the one truly accountable.

We are shocked when some idiot puts a litter of kittens in the trash. But isn’t it the same sort of carelessness and negligence — although to a way lesser degree — as sneaking old motor oil in the garbage, or a dozen aluminum cans that are begging to be recycled?

If our nation is really going to cut its waste, boost its recycling and cherish the environment, our culture must realize that the privilege of owning stuff comes with an obligation to properly dispose of it. Culpability does not end at the rim of the trash can.

The longer I look at our culture’s attitudes toward waste, the more I realize that keeping it out of the landfill involves a lot more than throwing it into the recycling bin instead of the trash can.

There’s a lot more to be said on the subject, but for now, the Waste & Recycling News editorial can speak for me.

How do you feel about these issues? I hope you’ll share your thoughts.

Want to stay in touch with the latest recycling news in the Cleveland area? Just click on the Follow button at the bottom of my blog Home page, or subscribe to my Examiner.com page.

Waste & Recycling News, part of Crain Communications Inc., covers legislative and regulatory activity, market pricing, and management issues that are essential to professionals who collect, transport, process, dispose of, and recover solid waste.